With hot summer days now upon us, its time to sort out the garden and get ready for spending time outside with family and friends. Whether you have an old lawn that needs some maintenance, or an area of your garden you would like to transform into grass, the big decision now is real turf or artificial lawn?
Following a recent renovation of our own home, ChilternChatter decided to see just how good artificial lawn can be, and if it could offer a practical, cost effective and realistic alternative to real grass.
The first picture shows the area which we hoped would be magically turned into a lush green lawn. This area had been used as a lay down area by the builders and contained bricks, rubble, soil and plenty of weeds. Having laid a turf lawn in the back garden a year before, it was obvious that the preparation necessary to transform the front would be major! Therefore, we looked around for a local artificial lawn supplier to see what it would take to ‘fake it’
Selecting a contractor – Our view is to Go local!
A simple google search for artificial lawn returns more results than you could ever follow-up on and it was almost impossible to tell which supplier to go with. So, instead of using one of the faceless National suppliers, we decided to keep it local and see who could supply and fit artificial grass in the local area. This generated a surprisingly short shortlist! And of the few we contacted, we were soon visited by Andy from 21stcenturylawns. In advance of Andy’s visit he had already sent us out a few samples to look through and brought a larger range with him. Andy was very professional and explained the whole process – it is worth noting that the more prepared the area is in advance, the cheaper and quicker the process will be, so it might be worth spending a few days clearing and levelling the area to save yourself a few pennies. The other reason we selected 21stcenturylawns was the fact they use a local supplier for the lawn and professionally fit sports surfaces as their main business – we took this to mean they knew what they were doing!
If you read reviews online, it is evident that it is possible to do it yourself – but having watched it done by professionals, it is clear that it requires lots of preparation: You could easily be surrounded by a uneven lawn which looks more like the Tellytubby hill.
Again a google search suggested the nominal cost for an artificial lawn would be in the region of £30-£50/sq meter including supply and fitting. If you want to take the brave move of DIY then perhaps you could go even lower than this price, but our lawn ended up at the top end of this, partly due to the fact we had left quite a bit of ground preparation unfinished. Certainly some of the National companies advertise a lower price than this, but we took into account a local supplier fitting the lawn we had seen and selected.
It is also worth mentioning that the lawns come in fixed widths – and joins will result in increased cost and waste. Therefore ask your local supplier what widths are available and if possible design your new lawn to fit a standard width.
Probably down to personal preference rather than anything else – make sure you at least get to see some samples and lay them where your lawn will be before selecting. Also, make sure you have a few different samples to compare. We ended up selecting one that initially looked a little unkempt compared to the other samples in the hope that it wouldn’t ‘shout’ artificial – that said, if you want a perfect, bright green, short cut bowling green then that option also exists.
Watch the pile!
We didn’t even think about this, but thanks to Andy we realised that artificial lawns come with a pile direction – and they look very different depending upon the direction you see them. So again, get a sample and rotate it – the advice we received is that it looks more natural if you are looking into the pile rather than it pointing away from you. During fitting, the grass strands are held upright by brushing a layer of fine sand into the pile. The sand will have to be renewed every year and may need to be brushed occasionally to keep the strands upright.
A highly debated topic is the eco-credentials of artificial lawns. We probably tried to read every perspective to try and decide where we stood on the issue and ended up deciding it’s so dependent on several factors that every situation is different. If we had laid a turf lawn, then we would have inevitably spent all summer watering it, then the following years using the petrol mover to cut it, fertiliser to feed it and again water to keep it green. To that end, a lawn which was made of partially recycled materials, requires no water, fertiliser or petrol equipment to keep it in check seemed ok. Of course the other side of the equation is that it will one day reach the end of its life and if it can’t be re-used, it will possible end up in a landfill – thankfully in Europe recycling technology has been developed to separate the constituent parts which can then all be re-used.
Overall we are delighted with the new lawn. In all honesty it did look a bit ‘bling’ in the first week or so, but as it has now been covered with a few leaves it seems to have blended in. Most people who have seen the new front have commented that it looks good. That said, it is still obviously not a real lawn so you will need to decide if its your thing or not.
The initial cost is certainly more than turf, but the thought of a maintenance free lawn is fantastic…so much so that we are now considering replacing the rear lawn for the kids to be able to play on year round!
We used 21stcenturylawns and were delighted with both their customer service and the products they offered. They can be contacted at http://www.21stcenturylawns.com